Journalist and 12 other women were arrested in Khartoum for wearing trousers face caning

The Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) International solidarity network is gravely concerned to hear that on Wednesday 29 July, at 10:00 am, Sudanese time, the court will hear the case brought against Sudanese journalist Lubna Ahmad Hussein for ‘inappropriate dress and conduct’.

Hussein and 12 other women were arrested in Khartoum on July 3, 2009, for wearing trousers. Ten of the women have already received punishments of 10 lashes each, and charges were brought against three others, including Hussein, under Clause 152 of Sudanese criminal law that mandates up to 40 lashes and/or a fine for ‘inappropriate dress’ as well as for conduct that is considered to contravene accepted norms. These actions of the public order police (similar to the the religious police in Saudi Arabia) systematically violate the human rights of Sudanese women.

The WLUML network calls for a halt to the court proceedings under article 58 in the Sudanese Criminal Proceeding Act that gives the minister of Justice the authority to stop the trial. WLUML further demands that article 152 be abolished or reformed because it is in violation of fundamental human rights as enshrined in international law, as well as being in breach of The Bill of Rights in the Sudanese Interim Constitution 2005.

Hussein has brought the issue to the attention of the public, and distributed 500 invitations to journalists and friends to her court proceedings and to the flogging to which she is likely be sentenced, explaining in an interview with Al-Arabiyya TV, that she had given out the invitations because otherwise no one would believe that she was to be flogged for wearing ordinary clothes: “I wanted the punishment to be executed in the presence of observers, so that they see for themselves why I was being flogged.”

Imposed dress-codes upon women, whether enforced by legal frameworks or non-state actors, are not only about clothing. Dress-codes speak to an underlying desire to control women’s bodies and autonomy, examples of which can be seen across regions and cultures. We urge your immediate attention to this extreme manifestation of controlling women’s bodies and autonomy through their clothing.

http://wluml.org/english/actionsupdates.shtml?cmd[136]=i-136-288408a2975aff7121e87f74893cd35c

UPDATE: Sudan: Lubna Hussein’s case postponed to 4th August

As Lubna Ahmad Hussein works for the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), the judge today (29/07/2009) said that she has immunity so the case could be cancelled. Hussein refused, however, and said that she will resign from UNMIS so she will be dealt with as a Sudanese citizen. The decision was reached to postpone the case to another session on Tuesday 4th of August.

“The court gave Lubna the choice either to accept immunity from the UN or to waive that and go on with the trial,” her lawyer Nabil Adeeb told AFP.

“I wish to resign from the UN, I wish this court case to continue,” Hussein told a packed courtroom before the judge adjourned the case to August 4.

“First of all she wants to show she is totally innocent, and using her immunity will not prove that,” Abdalla told reporters. “Second she wants to fight the law. The law is too wide. It needs to be reformed … This is turning into a test case. Human rights groups will be watching this closely.”

She wore the same clothes to court as when she was arrested — moss-green slacks with a loose floral top and green headscarf, and waved defiantly to crowds as she left the court.

Scores of people crammed into the courthouse to hear the ruling, many of them female supporters — some of them also wearing trousers out of solidarity.

Some held up placards on the street outside. “A woman is not for flogging,” read one in Arabic.

“We are here to support Lubna, because this treatment of women is arbitrary and not correct,” said Zuhal Mohammed Elamin, a law professor in Khartoum. “Women should not be humiliated in this manner.”

After the end of the court sessions outside the court building, there were some clashes between police forces armed with batons and the journalists who were documenting the event using video cameras. Some reporters, who were briefly detained, had tapes and equipment confiscated.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

The WLUML network calls for article 152 be repealed because it is in violation of fundamental human rights as enshrined in international law, as well as being in breach of The Bill of Rights in the Sudanese Interim Constitution 2005.

The journalist Lubna Ahmad Hussein has chosen to courageously use her particular case to challenge the constitutionality of the law and to highlight the growing number of cases of floggings of girls and women with no public profile or international standing. These women are guilty of nothing more that dressing as they think appropriate. Imposed dress-codes upon women, whether enforced by legal frameworks or non-state actors, are not only about clothing. Dress-codes speak to an underlying desire to control women’s bodies and autonomy, examples of which can be seen across regions and cultures. We urge your immediate attention to this extreme manifestation of controlling women’s bodies and autonomy through their clothing.

Please continue to put pressure on the Sudanese authorities to repeal this unconstitutional law by writing to the Sudanese Minister of Justice and to UN Special Rapporteurs:

ADDRESSES

The Sudanese Minister of Justice,
Mr. Abdul-Basit Sabdarat.
P.O. Box 302 – Zip Code: 11111
Nile St. Khartoum – Sudan
Tel: 00249912287609 (The mobile number of the admin of their website)
Fax: 00249183764168
moj@moj.gov.sd

Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women
Rashida Manjoo
OHCHR-UNOG
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10,
Switzerland
Fax: 00 41 22 917 9006
E-mail: urgent-action@ohchr.org

Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
Manfred Nowak
OHCHR-UNOG
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10,
Switzerland
bkainz@ohchr.org

Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
Margaret Sekaggya
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (Geneva, Switzerland)
Telephone: +41 22 917 1234.
E-mail: urgent-action@ohchr.org. The text of the e-mail should refer to the human rights defenders mandate.

BACKGROUND

On Facebook, Hussein posted a letter to her supporters in which she clarified that her aim was to stir up a scandal around her case, in order to expose the insufferable reality faced by Sudanese women due to the country’s criminal law. She wrote:(4) “I am very grateful to you all, and want to let you know how happy I am to have your solidarity. I hope that [this case] will shed light on Clause 152 of Sudan’s 1991 criminal law.

“This is not a matter of a personal attack against me as a journalist, nor of preserving my personal dignity. Far from it. The issue has taken on a different character, [and I call] on the public to be [my] witness and [to judge for themselves whether this incident] is a disgrace for me or for the public order police. You will decide after hearing the charges and the prosecution witnesses, rather than [only] my side of the story.

“My case is the same as that of 10 young women flogged that day, as well as of dozens, hundreds, and maybe thousands others flogged in the public order courts because of their dress, day after day, month after month, and year after year. They emerge from there dejected, because society does not believe them – indeed, it will never believe that a girl can be flogged only because of the way she dresses.

“The result [of this punishment] is [society’s] death sentence against the girl’s family; for her parents it means an attack of diabetes, hypertension, or heart failure. [Just think of] the girl’s emotional state, and the disgrace that will follow her for the rest of her life – and all because [she wore] trousers. The number [of victims] will keep growing, because society refuses to believe that a girl or woman can be flogged because of what she wears.”

http://www.wluml.org/english/actionsfulltxt.shtml?cmd%5B156%5D=i-156-565025

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